ORANGE, Calif. — More fashion labels have attempted to be increasingly inclusive of models of all shapes and sizes in the past decade or so, but are images of those still seemingly picture-perfect models doing more harm than good? One recent study shows that many women feel more insecure about their bodies, particularly their mid-sections, after viewing photos of bikini or fashion models.
Researchers at Chapman University sought to pinpoint exactly how women felt after seeing these photos, and which areas of their body they were most insecure about. Past studies used women’s recollections or general impressions of how seeing fashion models made them feel, but this latest experiment, comprised of two similar studies, drilled down to determine women’s feelings moments after looking at the images.
The authors found that seeing the models made women feel insecure about numerous parts of their bodies, not just their overall appearance.
“Our results show that seeing slender and bikini-clad models had an immediate and direct impact on how women feel about their own bodies- and that impact was mostly negative,” explains lead author Dr. David A. Frederick, assistant professor of health psychology, in a university release. “Our findings highlight the important role of media in shaping women’s feelings about their bodies.”
For the study, 1,426 women were asked to assess how they felt immediately after viewing a series of images showing either bikini or fashion models, paintings, or products. Nearly six in 10 women reported feeling worse about their bodies to some degree and about half said they felt less inclined to wear swimsuits in public after seeing images of the models.
After being tasked with describing exact what was going through their minds as they looked at the models, the authors came away with statements including: “The images made me feel worse about myself because the models’ bodies were all so toned and beautiful. They were tall, skinny, had smooth skin, and had perfect breasts. Compared to them, I felt ugly and not attractive.”
Another participant noted: “They all look so fit and healthy. I look much worse in comparison. I feel worse because there is nothing that I could do to look like them.”
In terms of how the images disturbed a participant’s self-image, the authors calculated the following percentages of women who felt insecure or worse about these parts or aspects of their bodies after the assessment: stomach (57%), weight (50%), waist (50%), overall appearance (50%), muscle tone (46%), legs (45%), thighs (40%), buttocks (40%), hips (40%), arms (39%), and breasts (34%).
The researchers found participants felt more prone to dieting or exercising more to lose weight after the study.
The full study was published in the December 2017 issue of journal Body Image.